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How To Kill A Fish (And How Not To Kill A Fish)

Updated on November 27, 2009

Fish keeping comes with many joys, but also with many woes. One of the major woes is having to euthanize a fish. Sometimes fish should be euthanized for humane reasons. If they are suffering with an incurable disease, it is far kinder to put them out of their misery than have them hang around for days or weeks, slowly suffering.

Unfortunately, there are also other reasons why people kill fish. Sometimes people decide to kill fish because they have some personal problem with them, such as perhaps they failed to research the fish before they got it and shoved it into their tank and perhaps it ate their smaller fish which it should never have been housed with and perhaps they decide to kill the fish by putting it into the toilet and pouring household chemicals in with it. These sorts of people are morons who should never be allowed to own animals. Don't be one of them. If you must euthanize a fish, there are kind ways to do so.

Clove Oil

Putting the fish in a bucket with clove oil will anesthetize it painlessly and if you leave it in there, will euthanize it just as painlessly. This is by far the best way to euthanize any fish for any reason. It does not distress the fish and it does not distress you. Some people recommend adding some vodka to the mix, however vodka would most certainly stress the fish much more than simple clove oil. Be aware that fish may revive if they are not left in the clove oil long enough, so it is recommended that a second method, such as removing the head after the fish is anesthetized, is also used. If you are not prepared to do this, leave the fish in the clove oil solution for 24 hours. You should add at least half a bottle of clove oil to the water or more, if you use less, your fish may lose consciousness for some time, but will revive.

A Quick Guide To Killing Fish


  • Pour soap or other household chemicals into the tank.
  • Flush the live fish.
  • Drop your fish into freezing water.


  • Use clove oil. (A bottle for a bucket of water, ensure that it is in solution and well mixed in.)


  • A sharp knife to destroy the brain.
  • A brick on the head works in a pinch.

As the owner of a fish, it is your responsibility to provide it with as pleasant and pain free an existence as possible. The clove oil will provide the kindest end, but if it is not available and you must euthanize your fish, many experienced fish keepers recommend crushing or severing the head. If you do sever the head, you must destroy the brain at the same time, as otherwise the fish will continue to suffer for some time.

Freezing the fish is often recommended by old school keepers, however according to the American American Veterinary Medical Association, using the quick freezing method is an unacceptable method of euthanasia. Research shows that during the chilling and freezing process the formation of ice crystals on the skin and in tissues likely causes pain and suffering.


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    • Bunniez profile image

      Bunniez 8 years ago

    • profile image

      Tamarind 8 years ago

      Thank you for this info. I hope the day never comes, but when it may have too I feel better about knowing what to do. I had heard about freezing them but I still couldn't bring myself to do it.

    • pisco profile image

      pisco 8 years ago from Portugal

      I must agree, freezing doesn't seem to be a good way to die, any of the others seem a lot nicer.

    • profile image

      Becky 8 years ago

      One of those things I've often wondered about for the case of euthanasia. A question you hate to ask, but it's so important to know to end suffering. Thanks very much for the advice, I'll let my sister's family know, as they keep fish.